Interview

26 October 2018

Digitalisation: don’t fight the change

Technology offers a way to better serve clients. It is essential that accountants and auditors embrace digitalisation, stresses Subas Roy, Partner at Oliver Wyman and Chair of the International RegTech Association.

He believes that “the accounting and audit profession needs to help businesses run more effectively, efficiently and accurately. We need to help clients make better decisions.” He is adamant that “this is the only way we can compete successfully against other rivals in the market to win customer trust and their business.”

To Subas, this marks a fundamental shift from simply protecting the client’s business interest and ensuring that appropriate, reliable financial information has been tested and checked.

Tomorrow’s ‘accountant superhero’ is a digital native

In addition to having today’s expertise and awareness, Subas believes that tomorrow’s accountant or auditor must be a digital native. This means being fully up-to-speed with digital technologies:

“For example, understanding data science. If you are responsible for developing an enterprise-wide risk management framework, can you use this knowledge of digitalisation technologies to make them faster, more responsive and more integrated?”

Meeting the skills challenge

From his experience, strategic action is needed to build the right skills: “Currently, the profession is lagging behind other sectors. We urgently need to take a range of bold tactical and strategic moves to bridge the skills gap.”

Subas highlights the opportunity for the curriculum to evolve, embedding digital skills training across all levels to ensure everyone has the right expertise to properly meet tomorrow’s customer needs.

He goes further, explaining: “This also has to include understanding of new business models, including B2C models, and how the digital economy really works.”

In addition to the skills gap, there can be a reluctance to upset business as usual, with a new digital skill set and a flexible mindset accountants and auditors can meet the needs of modern businesses and innovate for more traditional clients.

Digitalisation = Opportunity

Instead of viewing digitalisation as a threat, “Digitalising the audit and accountancy profession is a huge opportunity for all of us. It presents a chance for the whole profession to become better auditors and accountants, to help businesses to run better,” says Subas.

He wants to see “auditors who help businesses to run better and protect themselves using real-time risk management.”

“Why can’t we be more ambitious and generate the next generation of digitally skilled, ‘superhero’ auditors and accountants?”

Subas offers a positive message and a clear challenge to the profession: “The future is exciting, it gives us the opportunity to harness the changes that digitalisation brings. We just need to be bold enough to understand and accept that change is upon us.”

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